I asked my 8 year old students who knew the meaning of the word “simplicity”, as we were doing a seerah lesson (describing the character of Muhammad- Rasoolullah (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam). None of the children knew what it meant. Being one of the qualities of Rasoolullah (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam), they thought it meant kind or helpful. Some said it mean to be a king. When I explained the meaning, their eyes widened in shock and amazement. “You mean our Prophet was like, like…” “Go on, I said. “You mean he was p-poor?!” asked one of the students looking rather befuddled. I smiled and narrated the following hadeeth to them…
Aa’ishah (radiyAllahu’anha) reports: “We the family of Muhammad (Sallallahu’Alayhi wa Sallam) did not light a fire for months in our homes. We sustained ourselves on dates and water”. [Tirmidhi]
The reason of not lighting fires is, because there was nothing to cook.’Ulama have mentioned that water is mentioned because there were not enough dates, and without water the stomach could not be filled. First a few dates were eaten, thereafter an amount of water was drunk to fill the stomach. In another hadeeth it is stated ‘Two full months would pass and the hilaal for the third month would be observed, and no circumstances warranted that a fire be lit in the houses of Sayyidunaa Rasoolullah (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) for cooking’.
At this time I was trying hard to hold back the tears. The children still looking puzzled, stared at me as I reached for a tissue to wipe my eyes.
Yet another hadeeth states: ‘One month passed, then another month passed, there was no such occasion where a fire was lit in any of the houses of Rasoolullah (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam)’. ‘Urwah (radiyAllahu’anhu) asked his aunt Aa’ishah (radiyAllahu’anha), ‘O Aunt, on what did you sustain yourself? She replied: ‘Dates and water. There were a few neighbours of Rasoolullah (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) from among the Ansaar who owned some animals that gave milk. If one of them sent some milk as a present, then we too would partake of it’.
It is narrated that Sayyidunaa Abu Bakr (radiyAllahu’anhu) once presented a leg of a goat. It was night time and Aa’ishah (radiyAllahu’anha) began cutting it into pieces in the dark. Someone said.. ‘There is no lamp in the house’. She began to say: ‘If there was oil for a lamp, would it not have been used for cooking?’
“Why Mu’allimah? Why would Rasoolullah (Sallallahu “Alayhi wa Sallam) live this way if he was the best person on earth?” asked another. “Because he preferred this way for himself and his family”, I replied. “But why?” I tried my best to explain, their limited understanding made it a task for me. I told them how Nabi (Sallallahu “Alayhi wa Sallam) never ate fine flour, how he never slept on a soft bedding, how he would pray till his feet would swell at which point I added “Aa’ishah (radhiyAllahu ‘anhaa) also asked our Prophet (Sallallahu “Alayhi wa Sallam) as you ask today WHY?
She said, ‘Why do you do this, O Messenger of Allah, when Allah has forgiven your past and future sins?’ Rasoolullah (Sallallahu “Alayhi wa Sallam) replied: “Shall I not be a grateful slave?” [Bukhari #4557]
Also this was done to show us that Nabi (Sallallahu “Alayhi wa Sallam) was and will always be “al-Uswatul Hasanah“, the perfect example for us to follow. It was a bit of a task to create this image of sacrifice for Allah. Face it, how many of our kids really see that today? How many real sacrifices do we make for Deen-ul Islam, for Allah’s sake? If we do, it is so miniscule. We do it from the comforts of our homes or leave home to attend a gathering for an hour and we feel we have sacrificed while we still live sumptuously in our “house-bubbles, our boxes”.
I have heard many a man say “Why should we not live in comfort? We have worked hard for this money. We are not spending it on haraam Why should we live like misers and paupers?” True, while we may not be spending it unlawfully, have we taken into consideration how extravagant we have become? Have we separated our wants rom our needs? We have forgotten the ways of Rasoolullah (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) and his khulafaa. Such “paupers” who could not leave his home but had to wait while his garment dried? Such paupers who had stones tied to their bellies? Look into the annals of history and you will see that no great ruler lived in luxury while being close to Allah. Many names come to mind… Abu Bakr, ‘Uthmaan ibn ‘Affaan, Mus’ab bin Umair, Abu Talhah, Khadeejah beloved wife of Nabi (Sallallahu “Alayhi wa Sallam), Umm Salamah (RadhiyAllahu ‘anhum) and many many others who GAVE UP their wealth of this world in return for LOVE of Allah and his Rasool and the true treasures of the life HereAfter. I am not saying live like a pauper because Allah knows or yaqeen (conviction and trust in Allah) is so weak, that we probably would not manage. But let us: try not to be extravagant and wasteful; to separate our wants from our needs; to live in simplicity and give to those in need.
Amr’b Al-Haarith said the Messenger of Allah (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) did not leave any gold or silver currency, or a slave, male or female, after his death. He only left behind his white mule, his weapons and a piece of land which he declared as charity.” (Bukhari #2588).
After the demise of Rasoolullah (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) the ummah split into four groups. “One is that group that did not take interest in the material aspects of the world, nor did the world go towards them, like Sayyudinaa Abu Bakr as-Siddeeq (radiyAllahu ‘anhu).
The second group are those who did not take interest in worldly things, but the world took interest in them, like Sayyudinaa ‘Umar al-Faarooq (radiyAllahu ‘anhu).
The third group are those who took interest in the material world, and the world also took interest in them, like the Banu Umayyah kings excluding ‘Umar bin ‘Abdul ‘Azeez (radiyAllahu ‘anhu).
The fourth group are those who went seeking for the material world, but the world did not turn towards them, like the one’s whom Allah Ta’aala has made poor, and the love for the world has settled in their hearts.” [Munaawi].
I could go on with so many stories of simplicity and sacrifice but if we never make an effort, what good is mere reading? May Allah grant us true piety and simplicity in our lives. When we shun this world, it will run after us. But when we run behind this world, it will run away from us, ever alluring and taking us far away from the remembrance of Allah!